Old Ruffian Barley Wine | Great Divide Brewing Company

1,105 Reviews
Old Ruffian Barley WineOld Ruffian Barley Wine

Brewed by:
Great Divide Brewing Company
Colorado, United States

Style: American Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 10.20%

Availability: Year-round

Notes / Commercial Description:
Old Ruffian is a hefty, hop-forward Barley Wine. Seemingly mellow at the start with subtle fruit aromas and complex caramel sweetness, it quickly becomes aggressive with its bold hop flavors and huge hop bitterness. Ultimately, the big body, succulent sweetness and massive hop character come together to work wonders on your palate.

Added by gbontrag on 11-28-2004

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Reviews: 1,105 | Ratings: 2,451
Photo of DefenCorps
4.28/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Review #1250.

Bottle, 2007 vintage, the last year before the label change. I grabbed this at Chevy Chase a few weeks back.

Pouring an absolutely gorgeous deep ruby red with a dense, light brown head with excellent retention and lacing, this is an excellent looking barleywine. The nose is great too. Despite its age, it still has a moderate hop character, with pine and candied orange peel being most noticeable. The malt character is robust and intense, with toffee, caramel and even a little vanilla and an almost oak-like character. It seems like oxidation is starting to creep in, with just a touch of papery character. In addition, there's also some fruit present, with a rich plum and raisin character. Quite excellent for a barleywine IMO.

The palate opens with a solid blast of caramel and candy, with brown sugar and a rather intense tobacco character. As it warms up, the tobacco really grows, tempering how fast you can drink this. Fruity oxidation is present, blending very well with the leather, tobacco and the caramel character. The hop flavor has mostly faded, but a rather potent bitterness is present, a blend of hops and grain, with a little burnt sugar thrown in for good measure. The finish is excellently balanced with sweetness and bitterness present in appropriate amounts, and the tobacco adding complexity. Great flavors and balance here, this beer is full in body and has soft carbonation and a great finish. An excellent barleywine, one I'm going to enjoy sipping over the course of the evening. In some ways, it reminds me of the Kuhnhenn Fourth Dementia, a beer I need to revisit. I would also add that I like this more than the BA version

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Photo of jmdrpi
4.15/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz bottle, dated Jan 07 2010.

hazy dark amber color with orange highlights. 1/2" cream colored head, good lacing and retention. aroma is a great balance of caramely sweetness and hops. same with the taste. big bold flavors, yet not over the top.

no alcohol taste, smooth mouthfeel, a bit sticky of an aftertaste. fairly thick.

overall, a solid barleywine. a year old seems to be a good age for this brew.

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Photo of DrJay
4.5/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Mostly clear, deep red/brown with a hint of orange highlights. Dense tan head with great lacing and retention. Malty aroma with intense hoppiness, some pine, orange citrus, and faint alcohol. Piney hop bitterness is way out front, but is balanced well by caramel and toffee. Juicy orange kicks in midway, and it ends with nuts and warm alcohol. The finish is dry and bitter with a caramel/orange combination. Moderately low carbonation, perfect in conjunction with the creamy texture. Overall it's a bit dry, but balanced well with malty sweetness. This is an awesome barleywine, highly recommended.

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Photo of Brad007
3.78/5  rDev -10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2007 version (before the label change)

Pours a medium reddish color with a thick two-finger head into my glass.

Aroma is strong with a hint of raisin and sweet malt in the nose. Grassy hops show in the nose as well. Seems very appealing and to the style.

Taste is strong with alcohol showing up front, giving way to grassy hops and raisin/sweet malt. Alcohol warmth coats the throat. Hops aren't too strong.

Mouthfeel is full of lingering hops, alcohol and raisin. Alcohol is still strong even with nearly two years on this beer (unless I'm wrong?).

Again, a very nice barleywine that could use more aging to it. Strong, hoppy and has a lot of cellaring potential. Check it out.

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Photo of Bighuge
4.87/5  rDev +15.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Rustic looking auburn/burgandy blend. A slight creamy cigarette stained beige head recedes to a collar quickly. And this collar leaves some adequate lacing for a barleywine. This beer's aroma has caramel and nougat oozing out of every pore...with every pore being comprised of hop resin. My kind of aroma. The flavor profile is everything I look for in a barleywine. Deep blanket of caramel, toffee, nougat and fruit tones. But this blanket doesn't completely cover up the hop tones...no, it merely shades them. Those pine cone, resinous, rind-like qualities are present. But not in a Big Huge way in which you might find them in a DIPA. The bitterness is pretty clean, but very evident. Even though this barleywine is checking in close to 100 IBUs, this is a malt driven Barleywine, which really hits home with me. The alcohol is noticeable, but definitely not overbearing and quite fitting in the context of this beer. Mouthfeel is quite agreeable. A slight prick of CO2 is felt and the body is about medium-full. This is an excellent, excellent barleywine. One of the absolute best I've had.

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Photo of Jwale73
4.1/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

22oz. bottle served in my Darkness tulip. Pours the color and clarity of unpasteurized cider (perhaps a little darker), with a quarter inch, loose, off-white cap embedded with tiny ringlets. Head eventually disperses towards the edges, leaving a broken slick and a thin band around the bowl. Some delicate spots and strands of lacing were revealed during the tasting. Nose expresses toffee, dark fruit, a hint of cocoa and a suggestion of booze. Taste consistent with nose; however a hops presence cuts through the malty sweetness and lightly lingers between quaffs. Mouthfeel is medium-bodied, with a light carbonation and a slightly oily/viscous quality across the tongue. Definitely one of the more enjoyable American Barleywines I've tried. Hops presence is not too overwhelming and nicely cuts the malty sweetness. Also, the alcohol is incrediblly well-hidden. Delicious and dangerously drinkable.

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Photo of Viggo
4.47/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a clear ruby red, medium off white head forms, lacing is nice. Smell is caramel, chocolate, floral and pine hops, alcohol, and some citrus, the hops are spectacular. Taste is toffee/chocolate/coffee malts with super piney and floral hop destruction, some alcohol is present. Mouthfeel is pretty thick, low carbonation, very excellent barleywine. Thanks DrJay!

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Photo of maximum12
2.03/5  rDev -51.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 1.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 1

Popped open this bottle from the basement to share with the wife after a beautiful evening on the water bass fishing. Do I have a great life or what?

Looks like an unfiltered IPA, an orange tint to the beer that's not entirely clear, but not opaque. Smells like roughage; raw hops, wet fields, angry farmers.

The caramel is distant, weirdly the hops are still going strong, but the dominant taste is a steely, metallic funk coating the roof of my mouth - rather nasty. This horrid glut of whatever takes over whatever other good points there are & just makes it undrinkable.

I can't finish this. I'd say I rec'd a bad bottle, but the wife says "B-ish" so it's just that it disagrees with me - badly. I was looking forward to trying this. Huge disappointment.

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Photo of Beerandraiderfan
4.04/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Nice scarlet appearance with good clarity and 1" head to it. Aroma was kinda muted, didn't take much away from it but caramel and a nice lack of alcohol given its strength.

Taste, pretty enjoyable, rich and smooth. Alcohol, as usual w/ great divide, is hidden extremely well. Decent hopping to it, but clearly a barleywine. Stays away from sweetness, delivers some vanilla and finishes dry. Really keeps the bitterness and alcohol so suppressed on the tongue. Cocoa powder?

One of the best and decently priced barleywines out there. With this and Bigfoot around, you have to wonder how someone can do better at such a price and wide availability. Dethrone Rarity!

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Photo of Bung
3.88/5  rDev -7.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

22 oz. Rusty amber pour, good cream colored head. Malt, caramel, piney hop aroma. Taste is caramel, raisin, citrus/red fruits balanced with quite a bit of floral hops. Sticky, but could be stickier. Would prefer more biscuit and less citrus. Nice and clean finishing with the bitterness lingering. Definetely a west coast style barleywine. Drinkability is ok. Good example, lends itself well too aging I'm guessing. I bet the oak and barrel aged versions of this are even better. I just tend to enjoy the malt inclined versions a little more. I will say this improves nicely as it warms though, some of the edge is taken off.

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Photo of barnzy78
4.52/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

22oz bomber poured into a 25oz snifter, pours deep amber-brown topped with a frothy, ivory head that leaves a little lacing on the glass as it fades to a foam. Aromas are rich caramel, toffee, grain, earth...as it warms, tons of cherry and juicy fruit notes. Bold flavors hit the palate with a heavy dose of rich caramely and bready malt, booze, toffee, earthy hops that linger with some mild pine, fruity esters come out as it warms. Body is full, creamy, smooth, and chewy while being lower on carbonation. Overall, awesome American Barleywine - it's about time I tried this one!

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Photo of Suds
4.32/5  rDev +2.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I’d been wanting to try this barleywine for a long time. It pours a deep brown color, with notably orange highlights. The head is substantial by barleywine standards, and the overall appearance is solidly good. The aroma is a mix of barley, intense malt, strong yeast, and alcohol. There’s a bit of boozy fruit smells mixed in as well. In the taste department, the brew is nicely balanced, but the hops are a central component of the flavor. It’s a little rustic, and certainly warming. Wonderful malt character. This is a solidly good barleywine. Full body, nice drinkability. Well done.

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Photo of jrallen34
3.25/5  rDev -22.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

I drank this from a 22oz bottle into a Rochefort glass.

This beer is a muddy brown color that is not entirely appealing. The head is a very light tan with little retention or lacing.

The aroma has a little malts on the front with a very "off" hopish flavor. Its hops but one that is very unique almost tarry.

The taste is also tarry, piney with a lots of hops.

The feel is heavy but drinkability is done.

Overall this is ok, but nothing super special.

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Photo of drpimento
4.56/5  rDev +8.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Fabulous beer! Opened with a blast of caramel to my nose. Poured at a good temperature with modest, thick, slightly slow to settle, cream/light tan colored head and some lace. Color is a brown, orange amber that's a tad hazy. With the pouring came some heady wafts of fresh hop. Flavor is outstanding, tang and bitter up front, tang drops off, very slightly sweet, lots of resin, a little citrus. Body is excellent and while carbonation is a touch soft, it doesn't seem to hurt. Finish is like flavor, lots of booze, and long. Great beer for sipping and/or sharing.

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Photo of champ103
3.42/5  rDev -18.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 2.5

A: Pours a hazy deep orange/reddish color. At first pour, a large white head forms, but recedes to a ring and leaves some sticky and patchy lace.
S: This is great. Hops and malt are balanced perfectly. Fruity citrus aromas (lemon, grapefruit, lime) with sweet candy malt aromas. A lot is going on in the nose.
T: The flavor seems a bit muted. Plenty of hop bitterness and malt flavors to balance out, but not as rounded as the nose. Almost a cloying sweetness. Not that it is bad by any means, just not a knock out.
M/D: Creamy, smooth, and well carbonated. Lots of alcohol, and the sweetness makes this a sipping beer. One is more than plenty.

A good American barlywine that I enjoy. Nothing outstanding, but a well balanced beer. Something I would recommend to lovers of the style.

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Photo of claspada
4.13/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle dated Jan 07 2010.

Pours a hazy tawny, rustic mahogany with a substantial creamy, fluffy off-white head that leaves some nice sticky/soapy lacing on the sides of the chalice.

Aromas begin quite heavy on the caramel and dark fruity malts, as you might anticipate from being aged for 2 years plus. Second pass I get a light citrus and pine hop presence which still remains, which makes me think this was a hop bomb fresh. As it warms I get more complex maltiness highlighted by brown sugar, toffee and figs/dates. A decent amount of toasted breadiness is present throughout with no real booze or heat to speak of.

The tastes directly follow the nose with big toffee, dark caramel and brown sugar maltiness. You then get a light but substantial enough bitterness on the back end, enough that I can pick out the pine and light blood orange hop flavors. Toasted bready and the dark fruit flavors are once again present, no alcohol whatsoever. More bitter than I expected still but not too much so for the style. Fresh this may have been too bitter for the style, but aged here it is at a perfect level.

The mouthfeel is medium to full bodied with a surprisingly medium level of carbonation. The slight extra bit of carbonation helps this from being too sweet, which is important because barleywines can become too sweet with this much age on them. Finish is lightly sweet but more so lightly bitter.

Overall this is one of the best American Barleywines out there. Not quite up to the level of the Alaskan Barleywine which I consider the top, but really close. Really nice flavor profile, pine/citrus bitterness to complement the sweet caramel/toffee maltiness. Just a great showing overall. (This beer once again helps to prove my theory that American Barleywines peak at 2 years of age, so I will continue to follow that practice of waiting until that maturity date to sample going forward and recommend all to do the same for maximum enjoyment.) Definitely a must try for fans of the style and another high quality brew from Great Divide.

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Photo of Darkmagus82
4.41/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from bottle into a snifter

Appearance – The beer pours a deep crimson red color with a tiny head of fizzy, just off white foam. The brew looks thick even upon pouring sloshing in the snifter and sticking to the sides of the glass. The tiny head that was present upon pouring fades very fast leaving just some foam islands on the surface of the brew and a trace of foamy lace on the sides of the glass.

Smell – A big and boozy but quite pleasant and warming aroma is in this one. The rum-boozy bourbon smell is one of the heaviest, but is complemented by lots of big sweet aromas as well. Caramel is the heaviest of the sweet, but there is also a good deal of toffee and plenty of dark fruits with it consisting of cherry, raisin, plum and fig. With these aromas are some decent showings of a cocoa smell as well as a little bit of an earthy and herbal hop aroma.

Taste – The taste begins with a thick and bready flavor with some hints of a more roasted malt nature and a good dose of caramel sweetness. Along with the caramel are some flavors of dark fruit, consisting of the fruits that were detected in the nose; cherry, raisin, plum and fig. As the flavor advances the caramel transitions to a more buttery toffee flavor with the fruit flavors remaining rather constant. The bready flavors seem to dwindle ever so slightly but still remain a dominant taste in the profile. Around the middle of the flavor profile the booze starts to become noticeable. It is light at first having a more neutral boozy flavor. Along the same time some hop flavors begin coming to the tongue as well. The hop are mainly of a grapefruit flavor at first, but as the taste advances toward the end, other hops of an earthy and herbal nature join the flavor profile as well. Along with the increase in the hop, the boozy taste takes on more rum like qualities and gets quite a bit more potent toward the end. The newly augmented rum alcohol flavor, when mixed with the rest of the flavors, ends up leaving a nice warming and thick bready and somewhat more hoppy flavor to linger on the tongue.

Mouthfeel – The body of the beer thick and chewy with a carbonation level that is rather low. The feel is just about perfect for the style as it really soaks the tongue in all the boozy, bready, dark fruit, hopped and roasted flavors of the brew making them really stand out in a sea of big flavors. Well done.

Overall – This is a fantastic barleywine!!! Many are either too sweet or just a pure pack of burning booze. This one is fantastically balanced and drinkable with great flavor, feel and aroma. I would recommend.

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Photo of Rutager
4.35/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottled Nov 8, 2010. Thanks Hooliganlife!! From notes.

Appearance. Pours a hazy, deep rusty orange with almost a finger of creamy, pale orange/tan head.

Smell. Caramel and citrusy hops, and graham crackers . Big and bold.

Taste. Sweet caramel and plenty of citrus hops. Lots of lemon and orange, some malts in with the caramel, and a lingering bitterness. Very little booze. Very nice.

Mouthfeel. Full body, medium-low, incredibly smooth carbontion. Again, very nice.

Overall. Such a smooth barleywine with a ton of flavour, yet not overbearing. Really enjoying this.

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Photo of lordofthewiens
4.7/5  rDev +11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Easily the best barley wine in my recent samplings, and quite possibly the best one I've ever had. This is an awesome beer. Served in aa snifter, the beer was a hazy amber color. It had a thick tan head with excellent retention and some great lacing. It had a caramel aroma with some fruit and a little bit of floral hops. The taste followed the aroma, and expanded on it. Sweet caramel to begin with, then the fruit, and a nice hops kick. A wonderful combination of the sweetness and the hops. I'll drink this beer anytime, anywhere.

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Photo of glid02
4.35/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On-tap at Aroma's in Athens, GA. As evidenced by my bottle review I was curious to see how it stacked up.

Pours a hazy caramel-copper color with a one-finger yellowish-tinged head. The head recedes into a patchy layer on top leaving solid lacing.

Smells of sticky caramel malts with good amounts of herbal and leafy hop aromas.

Tastes similar to how it smells, though a bit more complex. Caramel malt flavors kick things off and are joined by toasty and bready flavors. Midway through the sip good amounts of leafy, pine, and herbal hop flavors join in along with hints of milk chocolate. The hop flavors take over more toward the end of the sip before ending with a solid bitterness.

Mouthfeel is very good. It's got a thicker than average mouthfeel with grainy carbonation.

Drinkability is also very good. I finished my glass quickly and could easily have a few more.

Overall the beer I had on-tap seemed to pop a lot more than the bottle and held a good deal more complexity. Be sure to give this one another fair shot if you weren't terribly impressed the first time around.

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Photo of ZAP
4.3/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

This is a heavy hitter...not sure where the rating will shake out but it has to be in my top 5-to-10 overall for BW's...

Pours a burnt orange color...big pillowy tan head...Nose is sweet, sugar soaked pinneaple...some plums...pears in syrup out of the can..deeper in a little more caramel...

Taste is initially sweet fruits..rum...good dose of maltiness but what a kick in the ass at the finish..big bittering on the finish...piney hops..

Begins like Old Ho but finishes more like Big Foot....this one is legit..still prefer Old Ho to this but this is upper tier stuff...

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Photo of AgentMunky
4.48/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Poured from a 650mL bottle into a St. Bernardus goblet. Bottled on 28 November 2010.

A: Respectable, creamy head. The beer is a dark brown-orange; translucent, coppery, and beautiful in the light. Good lacing.

S: Gentle, almost vegetal, hops. Caramel sugar and alcoholic malts. Tinge of citrus. Deep and pleasant.

T: So damn good. Big flavours full of moderately bitter hops that are overshadowed by bready, sugary, strong, assertive malts. Fruity with some spices thrown in? The endtaste is dry and aftertaste lingering. Not as good as I remember it on-tap, but still a great glass.

M: Thick, coating, playful, and just plain good. A bit spicy.

O: The perfect barleywine? Not too bitter, not to sweet, chock full of flavour, immense, lingering, and delicious. I love Great Divide, and only their Yeti series comes close to rivalling this beer. Highly recommended, worth seeking out, will be having again.

EDIT 23 December 2016
Poured from a 650mL bottle into a St. Bernardus goblet and BrewDog cervoise glass. Bottled on 18 December 2012. So it's 4 years old.
A: Murky, opaque orange-red. Gentle lacing, and a finger of fluffy head.
S: Smells like dead yeast (yeah, I think I'm done aging barleywines), with some amount of hops and booze. Strong citrus, light sugars. Deep and pleasant.
T: Smooth, malty, sweet, and vaguely flat. There are hops-bitterness, but distantly, herbal. The bitterness is more aggressive, less pleasant. In swigs, it's more grapefuit-peel hoppy and carmelized-bitter.
M: Thick and burbly and pleasant. I like this.
O: This is a nice barleywine, but is it a 10/10? NO. Moral of the story-- stop cellaring your beers.

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Photo of ArrogantB
2.92/5  rDev -30.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

2006 GABF Gold Medal batch on cask at the Falling Rock for barleywine month. The color was dark red with a fluffy head. The smell was floral, hoppy, and so alluring. This beer's smell really builds up the anticipation as far as the taste. The taste did not disappoint. Mmmm, hops, caramel, toffee, goodness. This was one of the best beers I have had in a long time. Now I have to grab some bottles for the cellar.

update 1/26/2013 bottle

Had to revisit this because I couldn't believe how high I rated this, that 2006 cask must have been ill. This bottle looked beautiful when I poured it into the glass so I did not change that score. The smell was vegetal. The flavor was harsh alcohol and a hint of broccoli, meh. Shit is actually pretty wack for $8, fuck that.

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Photo of BMMillsy
3.91/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours deep red amber with a nice creamy looking beige head. Aroma of sweet toffee and caramel, with some hop citrus. Drinks easy for the style with big malt balanced out by bitter citrus. A lingering bitter left on the palate. Somehow both malt and hops really shine equally here. Lighter mouthfeel (not light, but more than expected) with adequate carbonation. Not a heavy super sweet barleywine but a nice warming brew.

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Photo of Gusler
4.79/5  rDev +13.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The beer disembarks the 22-ounce brown bottle a smoggy rusty-red with a Brobdingnagian light tan frothy head that after it deliquesces, the lace forms a sticky sheet that seals tightly to the glass. Nose is hop floral with hints of fusel alcohol, sweet malt backs it up, start is delightfully sweet and the malt profile significant and the top middling in feel to the palate. Finish is emphatic in its acidity and the hops robust in their spiciness, very dry aftertaste that lingers long on the taste buds, and the high ABV leaves a nice warming sensation, a top notch Barley Wine in my humble opinion.

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Old Ruffian Barley Wine from Great Divide Brewing Company
4.21 out of 5 based on 2,451 ratings.
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